Entries - Starting with W

Warren (Bradley County)

Warren has been the Bradley County seat of justice since the county’s organization on December 18, 1840. Located in the southeastern part of the state, the town continues to be the county’s commercial, educational, and health care center. It is located on what was variously called the Chicot Trace, Gaines Landing Road, Fort Towson Road, and Washita Road. Early Statehood through Reconstruction Warren once served as the official center of the territory now composed of Calhoun, Cleveland, Ashley, and Drew counties. The first circuit court met on April 26, 1841, at Hugh Bradley’s house. The naming of Warren remained clouded in conjecture for a long time; according to local family tradition, the town was named for Hugh Bradley’s slave, Warren …

Warren, Edward Allen

Edward Allen Warren was a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He represented the Second District of Arkansas in the Thirty-Third and the Thirty-Fifth Congresses, serving from 1853 to 1855 and then again from 1857 to 1859. Edward A. Warren was born near Eutaw, Alabama, on May 2, 1818, to Robert H. Warren and Lydia A. Minter Warren. He received his early education in the area’s local schools, and he then studied law on his own. He married in October 1838, and he and his wife, Mary Elizabeth Warren, went on to have two children. He was admitted to the state bar in 1843, after which he began to practice law in Clinton, Mississippi. Like many young lawyers, …

Warren, Joyce Elise Williams

Joyce Elise Williams Warren was the first black female judge in the Pulaski County system and the first in Arkansas. She has also authored A Booklet for Parents, Guardians, and Custodians in Child Abuse and Neglect Cases (2003), which has been translated into Spanish and has been widely distributed in Arkansas and other states. She has appeared in several training videos and other videos concerning juvenile and domestic relations law and related issues. Joyce Elise Williams was born in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) on October 25, 1949, one of two children of Albert Lewis Williams Jr. and Marian Eloise Longley Williams, both teachers. She attended Gibbs Elementary School and was one of ten black students who integrated West Side Junior …

Warren, Nathan

Nathan Warren was one of the few free black businessmen in antebellum Arkansas, as well as a noted musician and the founder of the state’s first African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) congregation. Nathan Warren was born into slavery in 1812 in Versailles, Kentucky, on the Crittenden Plantation. John Crittenden, brother of Robert Crittenden (and later Kentucky governor, U.S. congressman, and U.S. attorney general), was likely Warren’s father. Robert Crittenden brought Warren to Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1819, around the time Crittenden was appointed by President James Monroe as the first secretary of the Arkansas Territory. Crittenden and Warren lived at the present-day site of the Albert Pike Hotel on 7th Street, between Scott and Cumberland streets, in a large …

Warren, Will (Lynching of)

Will Warren, an African-American man, was murdered in rural Garland County on January 15, 1916, as the result of an apparent quarrel with some young white boys. After murdering Warren, a white mob burned down his house and a local black church. Warren is described in newspaper reports as being one of the leading figures in a black settlement located between Buckville (Garland County) and Cedar Glades (Garland County). Determining the exact identity of Warren is difficult, as no report on his murder includes his age, occupation, or other identifiers. However, there was a Willie Warren, then nineteen years old, listed on the 1910 census in neighboring Montgomery County working as a farm laborer. Willie Warren lived in Fir Township, …

Washbourne, Edward Payson

Of the many artists who lived and worked in antebellum Arkansas, none gained greater acclaim than Edward Payson Washbourne, creator of one of the Western frontier’s most memorable and humorous genre scenes, The Arkansas Traveler. Noted not only for his allegorical works, Washbourne was also widely sought for portraiture. Examples of his work can be seen in the collections of the Historic Arkansas Museum and the Arkansas State Archives in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Edward Washbourne was born on November 16, 1831, at Dwight Mission, then located in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma); the 1850 census lists him as being born in Arkansas, but the western border of Arkansas was in flux at the time of his birth. He was the son of …

Washburn, Alexander Henry

Alexander Henry (Alex) Washburn was a prominent conservative newspaperman in southern Arkansas who served as the editor and publisher of the Hope Star for fifty-four years. Washburn sought to stay ahead of the technology curve, and in 1942, the Star began one of the world’s first transmissions by wire of newspaper content from other papers. The Star was also an early user of offset printing, 35 mm photography, and the four-color process. Alex Washburn was born on August 12, 1899, in Toronto, Canada, to American parents from Pennsylvania and Illinois. His father, William Henry Washburn, was an official with Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, and his mother, Annie Henry Washburn, was a homemaker. Washburn was the oldest of three sons and …

Washburn, Cephas

Cephas Washburn was a Presbyterian missionary who helped found Dwight Mission to serve the Cherokee. Washburn, who struggled along with his colleagues to bring Christianity to Native Americans on the territorial Arkansas frontier, served as an educator and minister for four decades. Cephas Washburn was born on July 25, 1793, in Randolph, Vermont, to Josiah Washburn and Phebe Cushman Washburn, who were farmers. Washburn turned from farming to education when he feared he might be disabled permanently from a broken leg. While teaching in Groton, Massachusetts, in the winter of 1814–1815 to raise money for further education, he became a Congregationalist and soon decided he wanted to be a missionary to the Indians. After graduating from Vermont University in 1817, …

Washington (Hempstead County)

Once the county seat for Hempstead County, and the last Confederate capital of the state of Arkansas, Washington is now dominated by the Historic Washington State Park. Still a second-class city with a population of 180 in 2010, Washington was overtaken by Hope (Hempstead County) as a regional center in the late nineteenth century due to changes wrought by the railroad industry, but the annual Jonquil Festival still draws large crowds from surrounding states. The Southwest Trail was built during Arkansas’s territorial period, linking St. Louis, Missouri, to Texas and crossing Arkansas from northeast corner to southwest corner. William Stevenson, a Methodist preacher, established the Ebenezer Campground for revival meetings on a sandy hill that would soon become the site of …

Washington and Benton County Expedition

  After the battles of Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove, the Civil War in northwestern Arkansas settled into smaller skirmishes and interactions between irregular forces on both sides of the conflict. To attempt to control the Confederate guerrillas, Colonel Marcus LaRue Harrison, Union commander at Fayetteville (Washington County), sent out frequent expeditions to hunt down and dislodge Rebels. He also devised a plan to destroy or disable grist mills belonging to or operated by Rebels. Harrison felt that the mills were congregating places for the Rebels and that the destruction of those places would lessen problems with guerrillas. On August 21, 1864, some of the Union troops serving under Harrison prepared to leave Fayetteville on an expedition through Washington and Benton …

Washington Confederate Monument

The Washington Confederate Monument is a commemorative obelisk financed and erected through the efforts of the citizens of Washington (Hempstead County) to honor the memory of the Confederate soldiers who died there during the Civil War. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on December 6, 1996. Washington, strategically placed on the Southwest Trail, lay in the path of troop movements to and from Texas and, following the fall of Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Union troops in September 1863, was the seat of Confederate government in the state as well. At least seventy-four Confederate soldiers are believed to be buried in Washington’s Presbyterian Cemetery (now Washington Cemetery); this number includes soldiers in the Nineteenth Texas Infantry …

Washington County

Washington County is in the northwest corner of Arkansas in the Ozark Mountains. It was established on October 17, 1828, formed from Lovely County, which was part of Indian Territory. Washington County has grown from small settlements of farms, mills, and orchards into one of the most affluent and prosperous counties in the state. The University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville remains the flagship of the University of Arkansas system. Tyson Foods, Incorporated is headquartered in nearby Springdale and has become a leading provider of jobs in the region. Given the broad range of manufacturing, industrial, and retail businesses, the population of Springdale is quite diverse, including a large Hispanic community as well as many Marshall Islanders. Pre-European Exploration Paleoindian …

Washington County Courthouse

The Historic Washington County Courthouse at the corner of College Avenue and Center Street in Fayetteville (Washington County) is a four-story building in the Richardson Romanesque style. Built in 1904, it is located in the commercial district of the city. It has noteworthy features, such as the steeple that rises above the city, a mural honoring Washington County casualties in World War I, and a bell original to the building. Bill and Hillary Clinton’s marriage certificate was issued at the courthouse in 1975. In the 1990s, most county business moved to a new facility, but the historic courthouse continued to serve the county in some capacities. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on February 23, 1972. …

Washington County Historical Society

The Washington County Historical Society (WCHS), one of the first local historical societies in Arkansas, was founded in 1951 by Walter J. Lemke, a professor of journalism at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). The society has grown steadily over the years and, as of 2010, has more than 700 members in thirty-nine states. The all-volunteer society has a very active and successful living history program, highlighted by the annual “Heritage School,” a week-long class that teaches the heritage and culture of Civil War–era Arkansans. The WCHS has a strong educational outreach program to area schools and students. Local teachers take part in programs offering professional development hours. Annual events such as the Ice Cream Social, the …

Washington Historic District

Citizens established Washington (Hempstead County) in 1824. The city developed due to its location as a stop on the Southwest Trail. Washington became the seat of Confederate state government in 1863, when Union troops seized Little Rock (Pulaski County), and remained so until the conclusion of the Civil War. It also held the title of county seat of Hempstead County until 1939, when voters chose Hope (Hempstead County) for this designation. The National Park Service listed the Washington Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places on June 20, 1972. The district included 149 buildings, but only thirty-nine qualified as contributing or individually listed. The boundaries of Washington reflect the historic district boundaries, which measure one square mile. In …

Washington Monument Marble Quarry

In 1833, the Washington National Monument Society was founded to create a memorial to the United States’ first president, George Washington. A year before a design contest for the memorial was announced, the society laid down guidelines: “Its material is intended to be wholly American, and to be of marble or granite brought from each State, that each State may participate in the glory of contributing in material as well as in funds to its construction.” Arkansas would ultimately donate three stone slabs to the Washington Monument in Washington DC, which was constructed intermittently from 1848 to 1888. The first stone, representing the state of Arkansas, was taken from a mountain in what was then Carroll County (now Newton County) …

Washington Street Historic District

Located in Camden (Ouachita County), the Washington Street Historic District is a mostly residential area with homes dating between 1847 and 1960. The district was added to the National Register of Historic Places on January 22, 2010, and expanded on May 21, 2018. With the addition, the district roughly extends from Maple Street on the south to Clifton Street on the north to Agee Street on the west to California Street on the east. Centered on Washington Street, the district includes some of the oldest structures in Ouachita County. The majority of the buildings in the district are homes, although a few commercial structures are included. Examples of several different architectural styles are located in the district. Several homes in …

Washington, George (Lynching of)

In the spring of 1871, an African American named George Washington was lynched in Baxter County for allegedly assaulting a young girl. The girl’s father is variously referred to as James or George Calvin, with the surname sometimes given as Galvin. He lived on the White River south of Mountain Home (Baxter County). Public records reveal nothing about these people. The 1870 census lists no adult George or James Calvin or Galvin in Baxter County, or even in the state of Arkansas. The same is true in neighboring counties in Missouri. There was also no African American named George Washington listed in Baxter County. In his account of the lynching, Vincent Anderson quotes an article from the Baxter County Citizen, …

Wassell, Corydon McAlmont

Rear Admiral Corydon McAlmont Wassell was one of the first national heroes of World War II. His service for the United States in early 1942 earned him the Navy Cross and praise from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and his story inspired a movie starring Gary Cooper. Cory Wassell was born on July 4, 1884, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the son of Albert and Leona Wassell of Little Rock. He studied medicine at the University of Arkansas Medical School (now the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences), where he obtained a medical degree in 1909. He did postgraduate work at Johns Hopkins University. After graduation, he practiced in Tillar (Desha and Drew counties) for a short time. Wassell married a …

Wassell, Elizabeth McConaughey (Bettie)

Elizabeth McConaughey (Bettie) Wassell was the honorary state regent of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), a member of the Political Equality League, and the chairperson of the History Committee of the Arkansas Equal Suffrage State Central Committee. Bettie McConaughey was born on October 12, 1859, in Searcy (White County) to James W. McConaughey and Albina McRae McConaughey. Her parents were prominent social and cultural figures during the Civil War; James was a captain in the Confederate army, and Albina was the sister of Confederate general Dandridge McRae. McConaughey married Samuel Spotts Wassell on April 8, 1978. Samuel Wassell was a Cornell University graduate and attorney in Memphis, Tennessee, and later in Little Rock (Pulaski County). They had four …

Waterfalls

Waterfalls often form as a stream flows over different bands of rock, with the soft rock eroding more quickly to undercut the hard rock. Unsupported, the overhanging rock eventually collapses. This fallen rock crashes down into a pool of water where the water’s swirling action results in more erosion. Over time, this process is repeated, resulting in a series of stair-step waterfalls retreating up a hillside. Nature creates an array of different types of vertical water runoffs. Experts have different ideas about what constitutes a waterfall. Although there are no definitive criteria, two methods have been developed to categorize waterfalls. Geometrical Classification categorizes waterfalls based on shapes and physical features. This method is helpful to identify falls for their visual …

Watie, Stand

Stand Watie was a Cherokee leader who signed the Treaty of New Echota, which led to the tribe’s removal from its homeland in the southeastern United States to the Indian Territory (modern-day Oklahoma). Watie also fought for the Confederate States of America during the Civil War, becoming the only Native American to achieve a general’s rank on either side during the war. Stand Watie was named Degadoga, which means “he stands,” when he was born on December 12, 1806, near New Echota, Georgia, the son of Oo-wa-tie, who was a full-blood Cherokee, and Susanna Reese, who was half Cherokee. When his father took the name David Watie after his baptism in the Moravian Church, he renamed his son Isaac S. …

Watkins, Charles Lee

Charles Lee Watkins served as the first parliamentarian of the U.S. Senate. For more than a half century, he sat at the dais in the Senate chamber, advising hundreds of legislators and ten vice presidents on the Senate’s complex rules and procedures. Charles Watkins was born on August 10, 1879, in Mount Ida (Montgomery County), the oldest of seven children of John A. and Nancy Rebecca (Smith) Watkins. He graduated from the Mount Ida Normal Academy in 1900 and attended the University of Arkansas law school in Little Rock (Pulaski County), though sources differ as to whether or not he graduated. Watkins married Martha Heard Walker on October 3, 1903, and they had one son. Martha died on April 27, 1923, …

Watkins, Claibourne

Claibourne Watkins was one of three native Arkansan founders of the Medical Department of the Arkansas Industrial University, now the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). Watkins was born on March 3, 1844, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the second son of George Claibourne Watkins and Mary Crease Watkins. His father was state attorney general and chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. He had two brothers: Colonel Anderson Watkins, who was killed at Atlanta during the Civil War, and Captain Walton Watkins. Watkins was educated in a number of institutions, both private and public. The Civil War broke out just prior to his completing his undergraduate degree at St. Timothy’s Hall in Cantonsville, Maryland. A Southerner by birth and …

Watkins, George Claibourne

George Claibourne Watkins was a prominent attorney in nineteenth-century Arkansas. His partnership with Chester Ashley is one of the roots from which one of the state’s most respected firms, the Rose Law Firm, grew. In addition to his role in the development of the firm, Watkins also served briefly as chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. George C. Watkins was born on November 25, 1815, in Shelbyville, Kentucky, to Isaac Watkins and Marie Toncray Watkins. In late 1820, seeking new opportunities, the family set out for the newly opened territory of Arkansas. They arrived in March 1821, and, settling in what would become Little Rock (Pulaski County), the family quickly earned a place among the town’s most prominent early …

Watkins, Travis Earl

Travis Earl Watkins was an Arkansas native who served in the U.S. Army during World War II and the Korean War. He received a posthumous Medal of Honor for gallantry during a four-day engagement with North Korean soldiers. Travis E. Watkins was born on September 5, 1920, in Waldo (Columbia County) to salesman Joe E. Watkins and Angie Watkins. By 1930, the couple had divorced, and his mother had returned to her native Texas, living at Winters in Runnels County with her sons Travis (age nine), Tris (eight), and Truman (five). The family later moved to Troup, Texas, and in 1939, Watkins joined the army. He served in the Pacific during World War II, earning a Bronze Star during the …

Watson (Desha County)

Watson (Desha County) is a second-class city twenty miles north of McGehee (Desha County) and fourteen miles east of Dumas (Desha County). Its location has always been somewhat isolated by the Arkansas River a few miles to the north and the Mississippi River to the east. The nearest bridge over the Arkansas River is at Pendleton (Desha County) ten miles northwest. The nearest bridge over the Mississippi River is forty miles south at Lake Village (Chicot County). The White River is also nearby. When Watson was first settled, the proximity to the rivers was an advantage. Since Henri de Tonti established what would become Arkansas Post in 1686 across the Arkansas River from present-day Watson, early French trappers plied the …

Watson, Hattie Rutherford

aka: Harriet Louise Gertrude Rutherford Watson
Harriet Louise Gertrude (Hattie) Rutherford Watson was an educator, librarian, and prominent member of the social and education communities in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). She and her husband, John Brown Watson, were activists for the African-American community during the early twentieth century. Hattie Rutherford was born November 23, 1885, in Rome, Georgia, as part of the black elite in the post-bellum era. She was the elder daughter of Samuel W. and Mary Anne Lemon Rutherford. Her father founded the National Benefit Life Insurance Company in 1898. Rutherford acquired an elementary education in the public schools of Atlanta and a high school diploma at Spelman Seminary. She completed her college work at Spelman College and was the only graduate from that …

Watson, Jack Hearn, Jr.

Jack Hearn Watson Jr. is an attorney and former government official who served in a number of positions, including White House chief of staff, during the presidency of Jimmy Carter. Since leaving the White House, he has continued to be an active member of the legal and civic communities, both at home and abroad. Jack H. Watson Jr. was born on October 24, 1938, in El Paso, Texas. The son of a navy enlisted man and his wife, Watson grew up in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). He earned a BS from Vanderbilt University in 1960, and after a stint in the U.S. Marines, where he achieved the rank of captain, Watson attended Harvard Law School. After graduating in 1966, he …

Watson, John Brown

John Brown Watson was president of Agricultural, Mechanical, and Normal College (AM&N), now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB), from 1928 until his death in 1942. Watson was a member of the first generation of black Americans born after the Civil War and representative of that demographic among his cohorts, identified as what Professor Willard B. Gatewood Jr. called “aristocrats of color.” Watson was born near Tyler, Texas, on December 28, 1869, to Crystal and Frank Watson; he was named for the antebellum abolitionist John Brown. Educated near his home, Watson passed the county teacher examination in 1887 and taught  for two years. He entered Bishop College at Marshall, Texas, in 1891 at the seventh grade level and …

Watson, Patrick Samuel Gideon

Patrick Samuel Gideon Watson, the father of Baptist history in Arkansas, was one of the state’s early itinerate ministers and the editor of Arkansas’s first religious newspaper in 1859. Watson was born on May 2, 1816, in Falmouth, Kentucky, the son of local farmer Joseph Watson and Ann Anderson Watson. His writings indicate that he received an excellent classical education. He married Catherine Oldham Harris on March 14, 1839, in Kentucky. They were the parents of eleven children, only three of which were living by the time the family moved to Texas in the 1870s. In 1843, he was licensed to preach by the historic Forks of Licking Baptist Church in Falmouth. Shortly afterward, he and his family joined an …

Watson, Wilson Douglas

Wilson Douglas Watson was an Arkansas sharecropper who joined the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II and was awarded the Medal of Honor for gallantry in action during the fighting at Iwo Jima in February 1945. Wilson Douglas Watson was born on February 16, 1922, in Tuscumbia, Alabama, to Charles Watson and Ada Belle Posey Watson. He was the oldest of five sons and two daughters, and he received a total of five years of schooling amid his labors on the farm. By 1940, the family was living in the Tyronza Township in Crittenden County, sharecropping a farm for Tom Sellers of Earle (Crittenden County). Wilson Watson registered for the draft on June 30, 1942, and he enlisted in …

Waugh’s Farm, Skirmish at

Colonel Robert Livingston and his small Union army entered Batesville (Independence County) on Christmas Day in 1863, having been sent to re-occupy the city, which had not had a continuous Union presence since June 1862. Their task was to keep the peace in the area and promote Federal control. That proved difficult, for they were surrounded by small mobile Confederate guerrilla units and outlaw gangs who preyed on small detachments, especially foraging expeditions, outside of Batesville. The most disastrous Union loss in the Batesville area was at the farm of Virginian Lewis Waugh twelve miles west of town. On February 18, 1864, a foraging train of thirty-five wagons—escorted by 100 soldiers of the Eleventh Missouri Cavalry and Fourth Arkansas Mounted …

Weather in the Civil War

Drought, flooding, bone-chilling winters, and intense summer heat all had an impact on the civilian and military populations of Arkansas during the Civil War, affecting military campaigns, access to food and supplies, and health conditions throughout the state. The Civil War was fought just after the end of a meteorological period that climate historians often call the Little Ice Age. This era, lasting roughly from 1300 to 1850, featured frequent climatic shifts, with bitterly cold winters switching to periods of heavy spring flooding, often followed by mild winters and subsequent droughts. While the trend toward cooling that characterized the Little Ice Age had moved toward warming by the 1860s, Civil War Arkansas would be plagued by temperature fluctuations that could …

Weaver, Emily

Emily Weaver of Batesville (Independence County) was a young woman who found herself caught up in the unorganized Civil War legal apparatus. Though charged by the Union as a spy and sentenced to hang, her case was eventually dropped for insufficient evidence. Emily Weaver was born to Abram Weaver and Mary Burton Weaver in Chester Valley, Pennsylvania. No birth date for her is given. In 1859, she, her mother, and six of her seven brothers moved to Batesville to be near relatives while Weaver’s father and oldest brother stayed behind to finalize business affairs for an eventual relocation to Memphis, Tennessee. The family stayed at Ninth and Main streets in a house she called “Pleasant Hill.” Weaver’s family was divided, …

Webb, Doyle

Doyle L. Webb II is a lawyer and former state senator from Benton (Saline County). He began serving as chairman of the Arkansas Republican Party in 2008. Webb served as Lieutenant Governor Winthrop Paul Rockefeller’s chief of staff from 2002 to 2007. Webb lives in the historic Gann House with his wife, Barbara Webb, who served as Saline County’s prosecuting attorney from 1996 to 2002. Doyle Webb was born on December 3, 1955, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Doyle L. (D. L.) Webb and Dolores Cornett Webb. He has one sister, Candis. Webb attended Benton High School, graduating in 1974. His political career began as Saline County coordinator for Ken Coon’s gubernatorial campaign in 1974. Webb earned a BA …

Webb, John Lee

John Lee Webb was a well-known African-American contractor and philanthropist in Hot Springs (Garland County). John L. Webb was born in Tuskegee, Alabama, on September 17, 1877, to the Reverend B. L. Webb, who was a Baptist minister, and his wife, Henrietta Webb. The couple had ten other children. John Webb’s family was not wealthy, so he had to provide for many of his own wants. Webb began studying at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama in 1897 at nineteen years old and was spoken of highly by the wife of Booker T. Washington, founder of the institute. He volunteered for the Spanish-American War, serving from April 25 to August 12, 1898. After the war, he returned to Tuskegee and finished …

Webb, Kathy Lynette

Kathy Webb—the first openly gay member of the Arkansas General Assembly—has had a long career in private business (most notably as co-owner of Lilly’s Dim Sum Then Some restaurant), philanthropy, and local and state government. She has also been a leader in the women’s rights movement. Webb, who battled breast cancer, served as the founding president of the Chicago-area Susan G. Komen Cancer Foundation. Kathy Lynette Webb was born in Blytheville (Mississippi County) on October 21, 1949. The youngest of three children—with a brother twelve years older and a sister nine years older—of Maurice Webb and Atha Webb, she graduated from Hall High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County) before going on to Randolph-Macon Woman’s College (now Randolph College) in …

Webber, Harold L. “Brother Hal”

Harold L. “Brother Hal” Webber was a popular morning announcer on the Little Rock (Pulaski County) radio station KLRA. A large part of central Arkansas woke up to his broadcast for over three decades. His morning show was always filled with homespun humor, storytelling, and advertisements that were more like recommendations from a friend—all interspersed with a mix of gospel and country music. Harold L. Webber was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on February 19, 1926. His grandparents were farmers in Poinsett County, Arkansas, and he spent time there in his younger days soaking up the rural culture and stories. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Navy Seabees. After the war, he returned to Memphis, where he married …

Weeks (Scott County)

Weeks is an unincorporated community located in northwestern Scott County south of Highway 28. Weeks was established circa 1882 just south of the Poteau River. Agriculture has traditionally been important to the area. Prior to European exploration, Weeks was a wilderness lush with native vegetation and numerous species of wildlife. Archaeological evidence from the Archaic, Woodland, and Mississippian periods has been discovered throughout the area. Additional archaeological evidence has indicated that the Caddo tribe had a strong presence along the Poteau River and other prominent waterways. Throughout the early seventeenth and late eighteenth centuries, French trappers and explorers traveled west from Arkansas Post along the Arkansas River. From there, they began traversing smaller tributaries such as the Fourche La Fave …

WEHCO Media, Inc.

WEHCO Media, Inc., of Little Rock (Pulaski County) is a privately owned communications company with interests in newspaper publishing, cable television, and digital services. Established in 1909, it operates daily and weekly newspapers, magazines, and cable television companies in six states. WEHCO (pronounced WAY-CO) is an acronym for Walter E. Hussman Company. The company chairman is Walter E. Hussman Jr., who also serves as publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the company’s largest newspaper. Hussman is the grandson of Clyde E. Palmer, whose media holdings formed the basis of WEHCO, and the son of newspaper publisher Walter Hussman Sr. The company has almost 2,000 employees. In a history of his family for the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association, Hussman wrote: “In 1909, …

Weibel, Eugene John

aka: Johann Eugen Weibel
A Swiss-German Catholic priest and missionary, Father Eugene John Weibel founded so many churches and other ecclesiastical institutions that he has been termed the Catholic “Apostle to northeastern Arkansas.” Eugene Weibel was born on May 27, 1853, in the small town of Eschenbach, Canton Lucerne, Switzerland. (His name appears as Johann Eugen Weibel in some German-language sources.) In Weibel’s autobiography, he failed to mention his birth mother’s name, only that she died at age thirty-three, four weeks after his birth; his father, John Baptist Weibel, remarried when Eugene was two. Although he mentions that there were eleven children in the family, he does not indicate where in that order he arrived. After attending Catholic elementary school in his village and a …

Weiner (Poinsett County)

The town of Weiner in Poinsett County is recognized principally for its rice farming, duck hunting, and unusual name. Since 1977, the town has annually sponsored the Arkansas Rice Festival on the second Saturday of October. The first known settlers on record were members of the John P. Phillips family, who arrived from Macon, Georgia, in 1866. Other families located nearby, forming the earliest settlement about one and a half miles west of present-day Weiner. In the early years, settlers made their living by hunting, fishing, and raising cattle. The Scott-Raybourn settlement was established a few years later near the site of the present-day Weiner schools. Weiner, a prairie land surrounded by forest, was originally known as West Prairie, and …

Welch, Thomas Rice

Thomas Rice Welch was an early Presbyterian minister and leader in Arkansas. He played an important role in the establishment of Lyon College and served as pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Little Rock (Pulaski County) for twenty-five years. Thomas Rice Welch was born on September 15, 1825, on a farm near Nicholasville in Jessamine County, Kentucky, to John Welch and Elizabeth J. Rice (Betsey) Welch. He had at least four brothers and a sister and was named after his mother’s brother, who was a Methodist minister. Welch was encouraged by his uncle to pursue the ministry. Welch received his early education at Bethel Academy near Knoxville, Kentucky, before enrolling at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, in May 1844. He …

Welch, William Blackwell

In the late nineteenth century, William Blackwell Welch, a physician, was a leader in the movement to modernize medicine in Arkansas. A cofounder and first president of the Arkansas Medical Society (AMS), he later led the effort to establish a city hospital in Fayetteville (Washington County). W. B. Welch was born on December 9, 1828, in Scottsville, Kentucky, to Christopher A. Welch, who was a farmer, and his wife, Elizabeth Lyles Welch. In 1829, his family, which eventually included two brothers and three sisters, moved to Somerville, Alabama. He attended schools in Huntsville, Alabama, and studied medicine under his older brother. After graduating from Tennessee’s University of Nashville medical department (later merged with the Vanderbilt University Medical School) in 1849, …

Welcome Centers

aka: Tourist Information Centers
People traveling in or through Arkansas often find assistance at one of the state’s fourteen Welcome Centers. Formerly designated as Tourist Information Centers, these facilities are located at thirteen points alongside major highways near the borders of the state; an additional center is in Little Rock (Pulaski County) at 1 Capitol Mall, which also contains many state government offices. Most of the centers are open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in the fall and winter and 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. in the spring and summer. They include amenities such as restrooms and picnic tables, as well as displays of brochures and other information about the state and its attractions. The centers are jointly operated by the Arkansas Department …

Weldon (Jackson County)

Weldon is a town in Jackson County, south of the county seat, Newport (Jackson County). It is on State Highway 17 between Auvergne (Jackson County) and Tupelo (Jackson County); the White River valley lies to the west of Weldon, and the Cache River plains lie to the east. Archaeological evidence indicates that Jackson County has been inhabited for up to 10,000 years. The first white explorers and settlers entered the county by way of the White River, creating such settlements as Newport and Jacksonport (Jackson County). In 1831, Alvin McDonald moved from Tennessee to Jackson County, first purchasing land northeast of Newport but later farming near the present site of Weldon. McDonald raised cattle and hogs, and grew corn, potatoes, …

Weldon Gin Company Historic District

The Weldon Gin Company Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its association with the farming economy of the town of Weldon (Jackson County), as well as for being the only example of cotton gin architecture and technology in Weldon. By the late antebellum period, Alvin McDonald was farming more than 900 acres just south of the current town of Weldon. Survey maps and federal land records of the period show that McDonald paid $1.25 an acre for just over 930 acres. As was the case with many of his peers in Jackson County, McDonald’s farm income was supplemented rather than supported by cotton. Smaller farmers who could not afford to build their own gin depended …

Weldon, Casey Bill

Casey Bill Weldon was one of the most talented, yet enigmatic, blues slide guitarists of the early twentieth century. Known as the “Hawaiian Guitar Wizard,” Weldon exhibited a range of material encompassing rag, hokum, and blues, though the majority of his more than 100 recorded songs are considered blues. Though he had a solid body of recordings and played with some well-known performers and bands of his day, much of his life is still shrouded in mystery. Casey Bill Weldon was born on February 2, 1901, in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), according to blues legend Big Bill Broonzy; some sources list his birthdate as July 10, 1909. Little is known of his youth, but as a young man he eventually …

Wells, George Henson

George Henson Wells was a reporter and editor at the Pine Bluff Commercial and Arkansas Gazette. His long career was marked at the end by his distinguished reporting on two epic federal trials. George Wells was born on February 9, 1938, in Hot Springs (Garland County), the son of George Wells, who was at one time an insurance salesman, and Annette Wilson Wells. While his father worked at construction jobs around the country during World War II, he and his mother lived in Camden (Ouachita County), his mother’s hometown. They lived in an apartment over a grocery store until Wells graduated from Camden High School and they moved to Hot Springs. At Ouachita Baptist College (now Ouachita Baptist University) in …